My Azalea is drying up and dying

shielaAugust 25, 2007

I have had my azalea for probably close to 8 years it is out in our front yard and it has always done well, through hot summers and cold winters, but almost overnight it has become brittle and all the leaves have turned brown. Is there anyway to save it?

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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

Shiela, has anything changed in the care this plant has been getting from the previous years? Have you been watering? So little of our rainfall normally occurs in late summer into Fall, azaleas and rhododendrons need regular supplemental watering during these months. Even though we've had more summer rain this year (at least here on the coast), if shrubs are sheltered at all by trees or larger shrubs, they aren't getting adequate water from rain alone.

So water it, continue to do so until Fall rains have begun, and see how it looks in a few weeks; you may find you have some pruning to do if some of the stems have actually died back. A mulch of something organic (I prefer compost) over the root zone will conserve moisture and cool the roots. If it's been in the ground 8 years and was healthy, I would expect it to recover.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2007 at 11:48PM
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Hello Morz8;
The care to it has not really changed, I did go about a week or so with no extra watering, but I have done that in the past and it has been fine. I will take your advice and just water it. How far back do you prune it, it is an azalea tree. I was breaking branches on it yesterday, just to see if there was any green in the branch, and the branches just snapped, my husband put some azalea fertilizer on it. I really appreciate your input. Thank you.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2007 at 5:18PM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

Azalea tree - do you mean larger azalea or one that was shaped to a standard (tree form) with a single bare trunk/stem?

Trained to a standard could be a challenge if you have stems that have died back. An azalea that has damaged top growth but a healthy root system will often resprout from the ground, which isn't going to be possible while retaining that formal shape.

Rather than break them, why don't you try scraping the bark along stems with a fingernail and see if there is any green or life under the bark. If you are watering regularly now and find no life after a few weeks (using the scrape test), those stems should be removed with sharp pruners. You'll just have to check and see how far back to the main stem there may be life.

I wouldn't fertilize any more right now, your azalea isn't lacking nutrients and that's all fertilizer can 'cure' don't want to add fertilizer burn to it's stress. Is there any chance you could post of photo of your plant, or a photo of any progress it's making in the next few weeks?

    Bookmark   August 28, 2007 at 1:17AM
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    Bookmark   April 23, 2011 at 11:19PM
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rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)

Hi Marlene,

Two things can kill an azalea, too much water and too little water. Sometimes when you water a new plant, the root ball had dried out and the water never reaches into the root ball. You can usually identify this by lifting the pot and seeing if it is heavy. If it is wet, it will be heavy. If it isn't heavy you need to submerge the pot in a bucket/tub of water for a couple hours until it gets thoroughly soaked.

Sometimes when you buy a plant at a big box store, they have already killed it. They get very good plants from great nurseries, but have minimum wage people taking care of them, so you can guess what happens.

Good Luck!

Here is a link that might be useful: How to care for rhododendrons and azaleas.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2011 at 11:30AM
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